By Rory Reynolds
THE National Galleries of Scotland is under pressure to display controversial artist Jack Vettriano’s work after he was honoured as this year’s Great Scot.
As one of Scotland’s most successful artists, his work is owned by Jack Nicholson, Robbie Coltrane and Sir Alex Ferguson, as well as holding the record for a painting sold at auction.
However NGS has said it has no plans to buy or stage a display for any of the 58-year-old’s works, leading to critics accusing the galleries of being snobbish.
Now politicians have urged the public body showcase the Scots-Italian’s work, with one saying he is “the most popular Scottish artist who has ever lived”.
Last week the self-taught artist fought off competition from author Ian Rankin, rock star Sharleen Spiteri and TV presenter Kirsty Young to win the award for an “outstanding contribution” to Scots culture.
Tory MSP Ted Brocklebank has said that he will table a motion in the Scottish Parliament to urge the NGS to recognise the artist’s paintings.
He said: “Jack Vettriano is an inspirational and popular artist whose work has been admired both here and abroad.
“This latest accolade of being named 2010’s Great Scot demonstrates his universal appeal.
“It is all very well for politically-correct critics in arts circles to dismiss his work, but the fact is that Vettriano is probably the most popular Scottish artist who has ever lived.
“Why should popularity be regarded as a minus in any judgement of his work?
“It is nothing short of scandalous that the National Galleries of Scotland have still so far failed to add Vettriano’s work to their permanent collection.
“A major rethink is needed and we need to celebrate Scotland’s most successful living artist.”
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop added that while she could not make the National Galleries change their mind, she said Vettriano is “an artist of considerable talent”.
She said: “Such a great Scot could receive appropriate acknowledgement, particularly so the people of Scotland can appreciate that work for the generation.”
Richard Holloway, chairman of the Scottish Arts Council, added that he thought the widespread appeal and popularity of Vettriano’s work may have counted against him.
A spokeswoman for National Galleries Scotland said: “We are very pleased for Mr Vettriano and as with any successful Scottish artist, there is always the possibility that Mr Vettriano’s work could be shown here or enter the national collection at some point in the future.”
In the past Vettriano claimed that the arts establishment looks down on his work – because of his “rampant heterosexuality”.
His painting The Singing Butler broke the records for fetching around £750,000 in 2004, while the poster of the painting is the biggest selling in Europe, earning him £500,000 per year.